One of the most enduringly popular toss-off posts on this site is something I wrote about love poems and Valentine’s Day. In truth, love poetry is not a genre I’ve particularly engaged. Nonetheless:
Ibn Hazm (994 – 1064)
Ibn Hazm’s name is synonymous with love; there’s even a line of jewelry inspired by him and marketed for V-Day. This is largely because of his Ring of the Dove, in uninspiring translation by A.J. Arberry. But this, trans. Ammiel Alcalay, is a poem I found in the new collection Poems for the New Millennium – The University of California Book of North African Literature. Please see a second translation, by Christopher Middleton and Leticia Garza-Falcon, down in the comments.
I would split open my heart
with a knife, place you
within and seal my would,
that you might dwell there
and never inhabit another
until the resurrection and
judgment day — thus you
would stay in my heart
while I lived, and at my death
you too would die in the
entrails of my core, in
the shadow of my tomb.
Ibn Arabi (1165 – 1240)
Translated by Maurice Gloton, also from Poems for the New Millennium:
I BELIEVE IN THE RELIGION OF LOVE
Whatever direction its caravans may take,
For love is my religion and my faith.
Also, part of a chapter from the Kitab al-Tajalliyat, translated in the form of a poem by Henry Corbin. From the Ibn Arabi Society:
I have called you so often and you have not heard me
I have shown myself to you so often and you have not
I have made myself fragrance so often, and you have
not smelled me.
Savorous food, and you have not tasted me.
Why can you not reach me through the object you touch
Or breathe me through sweet perfumes?
Why do you not see me? Why do you not hear me?
Why? Why? Why?
Abu Nuwas (756 – 814)
At the Princeton Online Arabic Poetry project, you can hear this poem read aloud as the words scroll by. Editors liken this poem to Tina Turner’s “What’s Love Got To Do With It? and note that this is more a love poem for wine than for women. I’m using the translation from the new Library of Arabic Literature volume, Classical Arabic Literature, selected and translated by Geert Jan Van Gelder
Don’t cry for Layla
Don’t cry for Layla, don’t rave about Hind!
But drink among roses a rose-red wine,
A draught that descends in the drinker’s throat,
bestowing its redness on eyes and cheeks.
The wine is a ruby, the glass is a pearl,
served by the hand of a slim-fingered girl,
Who serves you the wine from her hand, and wine
from her mouth — doubly drunk, for sure, will you be.
Thus I am drunk twice, my friends only once:
a favor special, for me alone!
Al-Ma`arri (973 – 1058)
This is perhaps an anti-Valentine’s Day poem, trans. Tarif Khalidi, who is apparently working on a collection (to which we should all look forward):